Friday, June 7, 2019

Romans Bible Study #7 "Righteousness Through Faith" - Romans 4:1-12 (Video and notes)

To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...

To go to study #6, click here..
To watch the entire series on YouTube, click here...

Before we can move on, I feel we need to spend a few more minutes on this crucial section in chapter 3. We are right now at the very foundation of our faith...the very root. It will serve us well to make sure that we have this down. If we don’t, nothing else matters.

Any public building will from time to time have to be inspected to make sure it is safe to inhabit. We see this all the time, especially after some kind of natural disaster like a hurricane.  Inspectors will come in to make sure that it is safe to live in. Although they will certainly look at the whole building, they will especially be conscious of the foundation. If the foundation is not sturdy, there is no use even looking at the rest of the house.

Before we had our modular home moved to our property in 2003, we had a foundation put in place. I had the choice of two kinds of concrete blocks to build the foundation with. One was sturdier than the other, and of course more expensive. I was briefly tempted to go with the cheaper one, but I immediately thought…”this is the foundation. If you’re going to skimp on anything, it had better not be that!” I’ve never regretted that decision. We’ve had some pretty big storms move through, and I’ve never felt anything shift in the least when we’re inside.

Last week, we spent some time on definition of terms. We talked about what righteousness, justification, redemption, and propitiation mean. Let’s review these briefly…

Righteousness…(vs. 21, 22) Righteousness is being right before God...being approved by God. We’re going to be talking about this a lot more tonight...especially about how we get to be right before God.

(from last week)
Justification (vs. 24) a legal term meaning to secure a favorable verdict, to acquit, to vindicate, to declare righteous. “Just as if I’d never sinned…” We’ll be spending more time on this tonight as well

(from last week)
Redemption (vs. 24) is what Jesus accomplished on the cross. It means the price has been paid. “Tetelestai”.  It is finished! We have been purchased. We are now no longer slaves to unrighteousness but “slaves” to righteousness. Jesus Christ was “the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.” The passover lamb was the type of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. As Israel was redeemed from Egypt in OT (Egypt is a type of the world and the world-system) by the blood of the passover lamb, so we are redeemed by the blood of Christ.

(from last week)
Propitiation (vs. 25) means to appease the wrath of God. Jesus Christ satisfied that righteous demands of a Holy God. God could never passover sin without a Passover sacrifice. Jesus was that sacrifice. It has often been pictured as the mercy seat, which was the golden covering over the ark of the covenant. It was there that the blood of the goat on the day of atonement was sprinkled. “Just as in the OT God met His people when the blood of the sin offering was sprinkled on the altar, so Christ’s death brings us into fellowship with God.”
Synonym is “atonement” - At-one-ment

I passed over one section in this latter part of chapter three I want us to pause over for just a bit.
The end of verse 25 says that in His forbearance He passed over the sins previously committed. This is talking about all the sins committed before Christ came. This does not mean that these sins were paid for. It also does not mean that they were ignored. It basically means that they were put off to a later date.  All the sacrifices of the OT period merely postponed the penalty for sin. These sins were atoned for on the cross, just as the sins of all of those who have trusted Christ since the cross have been atoned for.

That is what verse 26 is about. “At the present time” meaning after the cross, God demonstrated His righteousness before the cross by postponing their penalty. He demonstrated His righteousness after the cross by accepting the payment of sins that Jesus paid on the cross.
“That He might be just and the justifier of the one who had faith in Jesus.” Only through the cross could God be both just and justifier. It is truly “just-as-if-I’d never sinned!

Paul in verse 27 says, “Where is the boasting? It is excluded!”  There is nothing for us to boast about.

“The swimmer, when saved from drowning, does not brag because he trusted the lifeguard. What else could he do? When a believing sinner is justified by faith, he cannot boast of his faith, but he can boast in a wonderful Savior.” Warren Wiersbe

"Through the sin-bearing, substitutionary death of his Son, God has propitiated his own wrath in such a way as to redeem and justify us, and at the same time demonstrate his justice. We can only marvel at the wisdom, holiness, love and mercy of God, and fall down before him in humble worship. The cross should be enough to break the hardest heart, and melt the iciest." John Stott

Read 4:1-12

Paul does not want to leave this as theory. In the OT, it was by the mouth of two or three witnesses that a matter was to be confirmed. (Deut. 19:15). Paul brings forth two witnesses...Abraham and David. The Jews would certainly look at these two men as two of the most reliable witnesses in Jewish history. (While this chapter is directed at the Jews, it certainly has implications to Gentiles as well).

At the beginning of the chapter, Paul resumes the “diatribe” (question and answer) style. He hears someone asking the question, “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?”  i.e. “But what about Abraham?” He is hearing the Jews go back to Abraham in an effort to refute the idea of justification by faith.

Stott…”Abraham was held in the highest esteem by the Rabbis as the epitome of righteousness and even the special ‘friend’ of God.They took it for granted that he had been justified by works of righteousness. For instance, ‘Abraham was perfect in all his dealings with the Lord and gained favour by his righteousness throughout his life.’They quoted the Scriptures in which God promised to bless Abraham because he had obeyed him, without observing that these verses referred to Abraham’s life of obedience after his justification.”

So, here Paul is going to turn the Jews’ near-worship of Abraham on its head. In verse 2, he declares that Abraham was not justified by his works. In verse three, he quotes Genesis 15:6 “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  

Let’s go back and read Genesis 15:1-6

So Abraham was promised a child. He was at this time about 85 years old. Sarah was 75 years old. God had originally made this promise when he was 75.  It looked like the promise was not going to be fulfilled. Yet, God said it would be fulfilled just as He had said. Abraham, as a response, simply believes God, and the scripture tells us that this was credited to him (or reckoned to him) as righteousness.

The word translated in chapter 4 “credited” is an interesting one. The Greek word is “logizomai” and it appears eleven times in this chapter. It is translated as “credited”, “reckoned”, “imputed”, as well as “counted” in different version. (NASB mostly stays with “credited.”) It is actually a banking term, meaning to put something to one’s account.”

There are two ways that something can be credited to our account. One is, it can be credited to us as wages. We worked for it, we earned it. Therefore, it is owed to us. If you are working at a job and you get paid on Friday, you generally are not surprised to see that money show up in your account. You earned it. The company owed it to you, and they discharged their debt to you.
The other way that something can be credited to your account is as a gift. You didn’t earn it. It may have come completely as a surprise. It was only given to you as a gracious act by someone else. Which way does Paul tell us that righteousness is credited to our account?  Back in 3:24 he already told us we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Verse 5 of chapter 4 says that like Abraham, righteousness is credited to us when we believe. He emphatically states that this is not a work. It is unearned. Like the swimmer who is rescued by the lifeguard, we would be foolish to boast in our faith in the lifeguard.  Nothing to boast in!

Warren Wiersbe makes this statement about the fifth verse:

Paul “makes the startling statement: God justifies the ungodly! The Law said, “I will not justify the wicked” (Ex. 23:7). The Old Testament judge was commanded to “justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked (Deut. 25:1). When Solomon dedicated the temple, he asked God to condemn the wicked and justify the righteous! (1 Kings 8:31-32) But God justifies the ungodly - because there are no godly for Him to justify! He put our sins on Christ’s account that He might put Christ’s righteousness on our account.”

In verse 6, David will turn to his second witness, David, before turning back to Abraham. David said in Psalm 32:1, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds (or sins) have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” (NKJV “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”) It’s important to note that the phrase “will not take into account” or “shall not impute sin” is the same word “logizomai” that is translated “credited” in the rest of the text.

Let’s think about this. David says that the man whose sins have been forgive...have been a blessed man. This man is blessed because the Lord will not take into account his sin. So, in this case, God does not count sin against him.

When I was in college, I took an accounting course. We had a ledger that we would record credits and debits. You may have a checkbook that works the same way. I have a debit card in my pocket. When I use that, I charge my account to pay for something. It’s moved from one side of the ledger to the other. In this Psalm, God does not debit sin against the blessed man. He doesn’t charge him for the sin that he commits. Yet, we know that the sin must be charged to some account. God must be both “just” and “justifier.” How is He able to do this?  The answer is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

However, let’s turn back to the case of Abraham. Here, we’re not dealing with “debits” but “credits”. By faith, Abraham is credited with righteousness. We are here not only talking about not having sins counted against us, but actually having righteousness counted for us!

Let’s imagine that you or I owe a tremendous debt that we know that we could absolutely never pay. Say $10 million. We get the notice that is due tomorrow. We can’t pay it and we have no hope of paying it, so we respond not by asking for more time (which would never help anyway), but we audaciously ask that the entire debt be forgiven us. Tomorrow morning, we get an email from the debtor. To our astonishment, we find out that the entire debt had been forgiven...It wasn’t charged to us. We then find out, that the debtor charged it to his only Son, who has graciously consented to pay for the entire amount. There is no reason for this. We are now out of debt completely!  Would you be happy? I guess!

Now, let’s take this a step further. You are out of debt. However, you are also still dead broke. You get another email from the same man, who was previously your debtor. This email astonishes you even more than the first one. This gracious man has decided not only to forgive you of all of your debt, but has decided to deposit into your account an amount of money that will cover everything you need for the rest of your life. When you have a need, all you need to do is draw it from your account. Now how happy would you be?  

I have news for you...something greater than this has happened to you. Not only have your sins been forgiven and you have not received what was coming to you (that is, eternal separation from God), but you have been given eternal life. You are in right standing with God now and forever. All you have to do is accept the gracious provision!
Stott…”Justification involves a double counting, crediting, or reckoning. On the one hand, negatively, God will never count our sins against us. On the other hand, positively, God credits our account with righteousness, as a free gift, by faith, altogether apart from our works….Paul writes in Romans 4 both of God not imputing sin to sinners, although it actually belongs to them, and of his imputing righteousness to us, although it does not belong to us.”

I believe this is the real reason behind these OT verses…

Comfort, comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
   that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
   double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1,2)

What good news is this!

Let’s look at one more passage about this “double counting.”

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

God did not count the sins of the world against them (and we are part of that world), but rather made His Son  sin on our behalf (that is, that he has forgiven our sins and charged them to His Son). Then Paul says that the reason for this is the “we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” So now, not only have we been forgiven, but when God looks at us He see righteousness. As a result, we are new creations in Christ Jesus, gifted with eternal life.

Stott says, “Christ became sin with our sins, in order that we might become righteous with God’s righteousness.”

Hesed (Hebrew word translated “mercy, lovingkindness): When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.

In vs. 9 Paul asks the question “Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also?”  The Pharisaic Jew would state emphatically that the blessing of righteousness was only for the Jew. However, in vs. 10, Paul asks another question, “Was this righteousness credited to Abraham when he was circumcised or when he was uncircumcised?” It was most certainly when he was uncircumcised. In fact, he would not receive circumcision for another fourteen years!

In Vs. 11 Paul calls circumcision both a sign and a seal. It is a sign of the covenant that God had made with Abraham and “a seal of the righteousness of the faith” which he had while he was still uncircumcised. This, Paul says, it so that he might be the father of all who believe, regardless of whether they are circumcised or not. Those who believe in Christ have righteousness credited to them too. Vs. 12 says, not only those who are circumcised, but for all those who follow in the steps of the faith of Abraham.  In other words, we are included! Remember what Paul said in 2:28-29?

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

So, whether you have Jewish heritage or not, if you have believed in Jesus, trusted in Him for your salvation, you are a Jew!  According to Paul, you and I are children of Abraham, who is “the father of all who believe.”

After all this, maybe it will make these lyrics to this old gospel song more meaningful to you and me:
  • What can wash away my sin?
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
    What can make me whole again?
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

    • Refrain:
      Oh! precious is the flow
      That makes me white as snow;
      No other fount I know,
      Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

  • For my pardon, this I see,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
    For my cleansing this my plea,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

  • Nothing can for sin atone,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
    Naught of good that I have done,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

  • This is all my hope and peace,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
    This is all my righteousness,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

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